I did something daring. Something that has raised a few eyebrows and evoked quizzical thoughts. I mixed cayenne and chocolate together. I took a deep breath and put my faith in Cooking Light Magazine. I even used more than 1/8 tsp of cayenne. I’ve always been kind of a skeptic about chocolate and heat and still generally prefer my chocolate sans spice. Unless it’s a Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie, because that friends is different. Different in the very best of ways.
This risky behavior of mine also prodded me to make a few tweaks to the recipe. Since I am still a baker, true to form and the words “frozen reduced calorie whipped cream” makes me shudder, I kinda took the “light” part out. Well not entirely. I didn’t add butter or any more egg yolks or chocolate and I used a combination of whole milk and 1%. That’s a fair compromise right?
I figured I was sacrificing enough calories elsewhere, so I could afford to make some real whipped cream. Also, I have always detested graham cracker crust. (Sorry graham cracker crust fans)! It’s just that I’ve always found it to be boring, uninspiring and overrated and far too many pie, bar and cheesecake recipes have graham cracker crusts! I’ve just never understood that. Even a simple shortbread press-in crust is so much more interesting! Whenever my mom made cheesecake, she’d always make the crust using Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies, which yield a richer, crunchier, sturdier crust than graham crackers. Following suit, I too made my cheesecake crusts the same way, adding some toasted pecan pieces and a little butter. You should try it. It’s time for the Grahams to retire.
So when I first made this pie about a month ago, I basically followed Cooking Light’s crust recipe to a T, but subbing Oreos for graham crackers. (I wanted to use Nabisco chocolate wafers but apparently they don’t exist in Greensboro, or at least I’ve never been able to find them). So I just scrape the icing off the Oreos before I make the crust (and I don’t eat it either!).
That pie crust was sugary and crumbly and while I did like it, I decided to try something different this time. Last night I got out my tart pans and slightly adapted a chocolate tart dough recipe (if you could even call it a dough). It’s low-maintenance, requires no rolling or several hours of chilling and it came out great except I could have baked it a little longer. This crust was thicker, with a stronger chocolate flavor and was like a chewy chocolate cookie (I’m sure it’d be less chewy and more crispy had I baked it a few minutes longer). I also liked trying the recipe as a tart rather than a pie, just for something new and tarts are always so pretty and look so impressive! It was really a pie just pretending to be a tart. Whatever your fancy, either one would suffice just fine.
This pie is lusciously smooth and surprisingly rich for not having any butter in it or hardly any eggs. Cooking Light has tried to fool your brain, making you think you’re eating something highly caloric and decadent but you’re not! Well, you kind of are if you eat my version, but not totally! Trust me on the crust and the whipped cream. Like I said, it’s a compromise.
The spice brings just enough of a kick for you to know the cayenne is there and it provides a nice contrast against the sweet chocolate pudding like filling. The cinnamon accentuates the cayenne and is a nice compliment to the chocolate, adding more warmth. I am definitely a fan of pairing chocolate and cinnamon together and this recipe is reason enough. The two spices gives the pie some delicious intrigue. If this pie were a movie genre it’d be a black & white film noir. Veronica Lake and Humphrey Bogart would probably star in it. Bogie would wink and say in his effortlessly cool voice, “here’s to looking at you pie.”
Crumbly Pie Crust:
- 1 1/3 cups chocolate Nabisco Famous Wafers (or Oreos with the icing scraped out & discarded)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons egg white
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (generous) cinnamon
- 1 stick chilled unsalted butter, diced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened dark cocoa
- 1/4 (heaping) teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 (heaping) teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 3/4 cups milk (instead of 2 % I prefer 1 cup whole milk and 3/4 cup 1% milk)
- 2 ounces dark chocolate (I use Ghiradelli Bittersweet), chopped
- 1. Preheat oven to 375°.
- 2. For a crumbly crust, combine 10 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers or Oreos, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well. Stir in egg white and butter. Press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 9 minutes or until lightly toasted; cool completely on a wire rack.
- For a thicker, more chewy cookie-like kind of crust, for a tart, spray 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick spray. ( didn’t have a tart pan this big, so I used a smaller one plus 2 baby ones). Blend flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in processor 5 seconds. Add butter and blend until moist sandy texture forms. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water and blend until dough comes together. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Chill crust 30 minutes. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes; cool completely on wire rack.
- 3. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup sugar and the next 7 ingredients (through egg yolk) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place the milk in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until milk reaches 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan; cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth.
- 4. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 10 minutes or until mixture cools, stirring occasionally. Spoon filling into crust, and cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill for 1-3 hours or until set. Top with whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream + 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar). You could garnish with a dusting of cinnamon and/or some chocolate shavings.